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Layering moisturizer, sunscreen, primer and foundation before doing your makeup can be time-consuming if you’re in a rush to get out the door — but you can use tinted sunscreen to replace all four products. While it usually provides less coverage than foundation, tinted sunscreen can help even out your skin tone and protect your face like standard sunscreen, giving it both cosmetic and functional benefits, according to Dr. Erum Ilyas, a board-certified dermatologist at Schweiger Dermatology Group.
“If a tinted sunscreen has an SPF of 30 and an untinted sunscreen has an SPF of 30, then these products offer the same sun protection benefits,” Ilyas said.
Tinted sunscreen is made with flesh-colored pigments that help it blend into skin, making it “more cosmetically elegant” than its untinted (and often white and chalky) counterpart, Ilyas said. She noted it can camouflage discoloration and sun damage, too. To help simplify your search for the best tinted sunscreen, we asked dermatologists and makeup artists how to shop for them and for their recommendations.
Tinted sunscreen versus BB cream and CC cream
Tinted sunscreen is often considered to be in the same category as BB creams and CC creams, experts told us. BB creams — otherwise known as beauty balms — are geared toward those dealing with redness, while CC creams — or color correcting creams — typically offer a matte finish, helpful for those who have oily or acne-prone skin, explained Nydia Figueroa, a makeup artist. Tinted sunscreens usually offer the least coverage while BB creams provide the most — CC creams land somewhere in the middle.
However, not all BB and CC creams are made with SPF, so if you are looking for a tinted sunscreen option, double-check to make sure the product you’re considering lists its SPF rating. The FDA advises using a sunblock with a SPF of at least 15, but experts previously recommended using a face sunscreen — whether it’s tinted or untinted —with an SPF between 30 to 50. The Skin Cancer Foundation and the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) also recommend a minimum of SPF 30 coverage.
Additionally, experts told us to look for face sunscreens that offer broad spectrum coverage from both ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) rays. UVA rays are associated with signs of aging and UVB rays can cause sunburns and skin cancer, according to the AAD.
Best tinted sunscreens, BB creams and CC creams
Our experts recommended their favorite tinted sunscreens, BB creams and CC creams, all of which offer a SPF of at least 30 and UVA/UVB protection, according to the brands.
Bare Minerals Complexion Rescue comes in a wide variety of shades, which Ilyas said is helpful — she found an option that matches her skin tone as a person of South Asian descent. It’s formulated with titanium dioxide, a non-comedogenic ingredient experts told us is commonly found in sunscreen, as well as hyaluronic acid and squalane to hydrate skin. This tinted sunscreen is available in 20 colors and offers a sheer-to-light coverage, according to the brand. Bare Minerals also says the product is non-comedogenic and oil-free— experts said this makes it a good option for those with acne-prone skin.
Makeup artist Meredith Boyd said this tinted sunscreen from EltaMD is by far her favorite. She noted the product “never disappoints [her]” since it offers UV protection and hydration thanks to hyaluronic acid. Boyd added that the product works on all skin tones and provides light coverage. It also contains zinc oxide, another non-comedogenic ingredient commonly found in sunscreen, experts told us.
Makeup artist Aly Zabielski’s favorite BB cream is from Dr. Jart+. “It visibly perfects your complexion all while protecting you from harmful rays,” she said. The BB cream provides medium coverage, according to the brand, and contains niacinamide, zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. You can purchase it in multiple different shades.
Zabielski also likes this CC cream from Supergoop! that’s available in 15 shades. It’s made with a mineral-based, oil-free formula, according to the brand. The CC cream contains apple extract to add luminosity to skin, as well as irish moss extract to help reduce visible effects of free radicals, according to the brand.
Figueroa said CeraVe’s lightweight tinted mineral sunscreen is “a must-have” when she wants light coverage. It’s formulated with hydrating ingredients like hyaluronic acid, niacinamide and ceramides and has an oil-free, non-comedogenic, fragrance-free formula. CeraVe says the tinted sunscreen — which is made with zinc oxide and titanium dioxide — has a sheer tint and blends into all skin tones.
Boyd recommended Dermablend’s CC cream, noting that it’s a breathable option that provides full coverage. She also finds that the product does not clog her pores — the brand says it’s made with a non-comedogenic, oil-free formula. This CC cream includes antioxidants like niacinamide, vitamin E, caffeine and baicalin, the brand says. It comes in over a dozen shades.
For days when Figeroua wants a tinted skin care product that provides full coverage, she prefers IT Cosmetics’ CC cream. It’s made with hyaluronic acid, peptides and collagen, which the brand says provide anti-aging benefits. This CC Cream is available in 12 shades.
What to know before buying tinted sunscreen
Tinted sunscreen is traditionally designed for facial use. However, Ilyas said you can also apply it to your body if you want to cover bruising or sun damage, for example. But be aware that since tinted sunscreen contains pigment, it can rub off onto your clothes.
Additionally, since tinted sunscreen is designed to blend into your skin, Ilyas said there’s no visual cue that you need to reapply. Experts told us you should reapply sunscreen every two hours if you’re spending time in the sun or immediately after heavy sweating or swimming.
Another factor to consider when buying tinted sunscreen is the colors available. While many brands offer their tinted sunscreen in over a dozen shades, some have more limited color options. Shades differ between brands, too — you may want to try different options to find one that best suits your skin.